On Sunday (April 2) on the rooftop of the Mr. C hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., Jayce’s Journey launched its inaugural sneaker ball to raise funds for families of people with special needs. Taking place on what is globally recognized as World Autism Day, the non-profit’s founder Deirdre Price aims to assist children and individuals with autism and/or developmental delays through early intervention services, education, and access to resources.
She was inspired to create the foundation by her three-year-old son Jayce, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of two.
“It was what we needed. It was what I needed as a single mother. It was what I felt like our community needed as far as minorities in the autism world, building a village, resources, information…Even just to talk about it. I think that was missing,” explained Price to VIBE on the event’s blue carpet with Jayce clinging to her hip. “I would stop posting him because I thought one day someone would say ‘Why is he not talking yet?’ I was starting to be cognizant of what I was posting and decided I can’t live like that.”
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention defines ASD as a “developmental disability caused by differences in the brain,” and explains “people with ASD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.” Signs of autism typically show in children by age two and include but are not limited to: problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests.
Last month, the Associated Press reported that for the first time, autism is being diagnosed more frequently in Black and Hispanic children than in white kids according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By the numbers, 3% of Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children have an autism diagnosis, compared with about 2% of white children.
Experts note the increase is due to improved access to approved screening and autism services for all kids, as well as increased awareness and advocacy for minorities.
With guests including Loni Love, O.T. Genasis, members of the Los Angeles Clippers, Durand Bernarr, Lyrica Anderson, and Brooke Valentine dressing up their favorite pair of sneakers, Jayce’s Journey raised over $30,000 through a silent auction. One of the items up for grabs included a painting from artist Nick Alexanders, which was completed live during the event.
The evening, where fashion and philanthropy coincided, included custom cocktails, love and support for Jayce who attended the gala, and musical moments from 1500 Or Nothing. Speakers included Price, who detailed her and Jayce’s journey, as well as Dr. Netsy Mulugeta and Dr. Dianne Cullinane who relayed impactful information about ASD.
“Autism affects all people,” explained comedian Loni Love. “To have a fundraiser like this to help is something that’s really needed, especially in our community, and that’s why it’s important to show support no matter how big or how small.”
R&B singer and reality star Brooke Valentine detailed her own journey with ASD.
“Personally, I have a 13-year-old-son who has a triple diagnosis and autism is one of them,” she said. “This is a situation that’s super dear to my heart because I deal with this every day at home. To be there for others, there are women and men out there who can’t afford the healthcare, and sometimes they can’t even afford the copay, with the insurance. Jayce’s Journey is there to help. It takes a village.”
With the proceeds, Price plans to further the efforts of the non-profit by providing assistance to others through programs and initiatives. This includes essential relief support, youth music therapy programs, caretaker mental health support, and continued monthly and seasonal outings.
For more information on Jayce’s Journey, visit the official website and follow the organization on social media.